Identification of a RELIK orthologue in the European hare (Lepus europaeus) reveals a minimum age of 12 million years for the lagomorph lentiviruses.
Keckesova Z., Ylinen LMJ., Towers GJ., Gifford RJ., Katzourakis A.
The retroviral genus Lentivirus comprises retroviruses characterised from five mammalian orders. Lentiviruses typically undergo rapid rates of evolution, a feature that has allowed recent evolutionary relationships to be elucidated, but has also obscured their distant evolutionary past. However, the slowdown in the rate of evolution associated with genome invasion, as has occurred in the European rabbit, enables longer-term lentiviral evolutionary history to be inferred. Here we report the identification of orthologous RELIK proviruses in the European hare, demonstrating a minimum age of 12 million years for the lagomorph lentiviruses. This finding indicates an association between lentiviruses and their hosts covering much of the evolutionary history of the lagomorphs, and taking place within species with a worldwide distribution.